Frytown

Thoughts of a Woodchopper

By Chuck Hotle


This is the time of year that people travel to see all kinds of places to see all kinds of things. Sometimes you don't have to travel far to see things beautiful and unique.

The other day I visited such a place within 20 miles of home. I have gone through this little town many times but never stopped to look around. When I did finally leave the road and take a better look I found a tiny little town of 30 houses among trees and flowers that equals many little new England villages that we call beautiful and extremely interesting. The place is called Frytown, six miles beyond a larger and more famous place called Kalona, itself one of the best known little burgs in Iowa.

Frytown has a church back at the end of a grassy lane with a cemetery right behind it on a gentle hillside. The sign tells the visitor that it is a Church of Christ place of worship and that it dates back to 1863, still quite active.

There was no one around when I walked that in a slight drizzle the other day, which I liked because there was time to read the stones in the cemetery and soak in a little history. On one of the stones I read the name William Fry born in 1813 died 1905. His wife Harriett was buried beside him. I would guess that the town was named after him though there are many people of that name buried there. I had always thought it to be a Mennonite community but the names of the early settlers buried there more or less denies that. There are Oldakers, Boones, Huffs, Dunlaps, Wagners, Pattersond, Boyers, McGumphreys and Lafaeyette De France born in 1825. None of these seem like Mennonite names to me. The oldest name according to birth date was of a Mr. Zager born in 1808.

After enjoying my church and cemetery browsing I went back to main road and stopped at the antique store there. It has atmosphere. Lady there told me it had been a general store for many years with rooms on the side for the storekeepers family to live.

I learned more about Frytown, once called Williamstown, on the old angling stage coach road that went from Iowa City to Oskaloosa. Other stops on the road were at Sharon Center, Joetown, Wassonville, Garibaldi, Lancaster and Sigourney.

The first post office, established in 1853, was called Frank Pierce Post Office after the man who was president then. The usual blacksmiths, carpenters, weavers, doctors, and storekeepers are a part of history of Frytown. It is all in a book available at the antique store.

The next time you travel up Highway No. 1 and notice the big grain elevator about a mile west and 10 miles south of Iowa City, if you have a few minutes, turn off and visit Frytown. You will be pleasantly surprised. There are about 30 nice houses making up the little town which is center of one of this state's most active agricultural areas.